Trinity City Council votes to add stop signs

At their last meeting, the Trinity City Council listened to Building Inspector and Code Enforcement specialist, Ken Newton, present a resident’s concern to the council – that vehicles between Lakeview and Calvin Street travel too quickly and are a danger to the neighborhood’s children. The proposed solution was to erect stop signs running North and South on Calvin St. in an attempt to slow the vehicles.

 Newton said that a driver attempting to avoid getting blocked by a train may choose to speed down Calvin St. without being interrupted by stop signs since there aren’t any there.

 “Because they’re speeding, there’s a danger to the children that might get out in the street,” Newton said. “So they’re trying to get the City to help control that traffic a little bit.”

 Mayor Pro-Tem Wayne Huffman said the speeding problem is a police issue, and that the council agreeing to put up a stop sign could set a precedent that would result in the city having to put up numerous other signs in Trinity. Remembering his experience as a parent, Huffman also stated that streets are for automobiles, and not for children.

 “Times have changed, the city has changed, people have changed – everything is happening now,” said Councilman Chris Dennis, shortly after Huffman spoke. “I firmly believe that we need another officer, especially at night… I’m quite sure people could stand a nickel or so and wouldn’t mind in taxes for us to get another police officer. [Trinity Police Department Chief] Steve [Jones] is doing a good job, I think. I think we’ve got a good P.D. I just don’t think we’ve got enough P.D.”

 Councilman DeWalt made a motion to erect two stop signs.

 “I have the greatest respect for Mr. Huffman and I agree with what he said, but if tomorrow two of those little children got run over, it would be on my conscience,” DeWalt said.

 Councilman Dennis seconded the motion, and in a 50/50 vote, Mayor Pro-Tem Huffman and Councilman Philip Morrison voted against the motion, while Councilman DeWalt and Councilman Dennis voted in favor of it. To break the tie, Mayor Billy Joe Slaughter voted, ultimately deciding the addition of the two stop signs would be best.

 In other businesses, the council discussed grant-related work.

 The Trinity City Council meets the second Thursday of every month at 7 p.m. in the Council Chambers of Trinity City Hall.

Commissioners hear presentation on body cams

By Chris Edwards

A nascent technology, which Sheriff Woody Wallace referred to as a “new craze”, might be coming to Trinity County soon.

Body cams, which are high-quality video-capture devices worn on the body by law enforcement personnel, might be required gear for LEOs in the near future, according to Sheriff Wallace; a possible future requirement for agencies to secure state funding.

Sheriff Wallace and Susie Hammond were on hand during Monday morning’s meeting of the Trinity County Commissioners’ Court to ask for approval for the application of an e-grant for the body cams. Sheriff Wallace said that if the grant is approved and the cameras are purchased, they will be provided to the Sheriff’s Department and the four county constables. 

Hammond, who is working with the sheriff to research and secure the grant funds, answered some questions about the method of data storage and maintenance for the equipment. She said that after being purchased and set up, the cameras would have enough storage capacity for three years worth of footage. She said that the grant that TCSO is looking to apply for is a matched funding grant, with a 20% match to the county, which would come to a total of $7,500.  Hammond drew from her previous experience in securing a similar grant for Houston County to explain how the grant works.

Precinct 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham asked questions about technical issues with the cameras, and said that the topic was something that previously had been addressed at the state level, but had yet to become a requirement for law enforcement agencies. Sheriff Wallace said that although he wasn’t the biggest fan of body cams, he has seen instances where they could be of help. They are especially helpful, as Precinct 2 Commissioner Rich Chamberlin noted, for maintaining transparency among departments. 

The grant application was approved by the court by way of a motion from Commissioner Worsham and a second by Commissioner Smith.

In other items of business on the agenda:

•Commissioners voted to restore the funds to the office of new Precinct 1 Constable Tommy Park. Park, who was elected to the office in the last election, replaced Rusty Barrett. The monies for that office’s budget had been redacted due to inactivity.

•Susanne Waller of the Trinity County Historical Commission spoke to the court about the appointment of officers and members for TCHC’s 2017-18 term. The appointments were approved by the commissioners. Waller also spoke about a few historical markers that TCHC is working on securing for sites such as the site of a CCC camp near Trinity, the Glendale Congregational Methodist Church, and the boyhood home in Trinity of the late, long-serving congressman Charlie Wilson.

•The approval of a service provider agreement between the Centerville Water Supply Corporation and Trinity County. Documents outlining each party’s responsibilities in a 2017-18 Texas Community Development Block Grant program grant were given to commissioners for review. The grand funds, which can be secured for up to $275,000 would be used to construct water system improvements, if awarded. The designation of Trinity County Judge Doug Page as authorized signatory for the grant process was also approved.

•A public hearing was scheduled for February 27 to extend the Texas Transportation Code laws to all roads within the Westwood Shores subdivision. 

•A public hearing for February 13 was scheduled to determine a reasonable maximum speed for vehicles traveling Martin Thompson Road and Evans Road. Commissioner Smith noted that complaints had recently arisen about 18-wheeler traffic along the roads, due to recent drilling activity.

•Commissioners also approved bonds of $5,000 apiece for Commissioners Worsham and Smith, who were recently sworn-in to begin their newly elected terms.


Sheriff’s vehicles, nuisance-harboring properties discussed

By Chris Edwards

The purchase of three new vehicles for the Trinity County Sheriff’s Department was discussed and approved early on Monday morning’s agenda at the regular meeting of the Commissioners Court.

The trio of vehicles, two of which are patrol units and the other an “administrative unit,” as County Treasurer Bob Dockens referred to it, was initially approved by the commissioners in February. Dockens presented Commissioners with documents that detailed the specifics of the vehicles, as well as a proposal of financing (through BancorpSouth), along with an amortization schedule for two of the vehicles. The financing schedule would come with the stipulation that the county pay the principal, plus interest, over a two-year period, at an interest rate of 2.14%. The amount would be paid in half each year, according to the proposal Dockens presented.

The full amount for the two units that are to be financed is $91,714, and the third unit comes at a cost of $45,317. The county will pay for the third vehicle outright. Dockens reminded the commissioners that the financing documents he’d presented for review were merely “a draft proposal…nothing is etched in stone.”

Precinct 3 Commissioner Neal Smith put a motion on the floor to approve the proposal with a stipulation noted as to the financing situation.

Several items on Monday’s agenda pertained to the issue properties that have come to harbor public nuisance(s). A hearing was conducted to determine whether or not a Westwood Shores property, located at 13 Sparrow in Trinity, contains an element of nuisance.  Precinct 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham said he had looked at the property and would testify that it was, indeed, a nuisance. County Environmental Officer Carl O. Dyer spoke about the property and the lack of progress made with the cleaning up of it. He said that the property was in worse shape now than it was upon earlier inspections, and noted that someone had busted out windows in the house on the property.

Commissioner Worsham made a motion to declare the property a nuisance, which will allow the county to assess the cost of ordering an abatement of the property and to establish a lien on it. In addition to the declaration of nuisance, the commissioners also voted to authorize Westwood Shores property owners to volunteer and participate in the abatement of public nuisances on properties in the subdivision that have been declared as nuisances by the court.

The commissioners heard a presentation from Shirleen Bonacci, a client services consultant with GrantWorks. Bonacci spoke of her company’s effectiveness at securing grant monies for communities. “We are trying to prove to you that, hopefully, we are a good company to work with,” she said. According to Bonacci, GrantWorks has secured $1.1 billion in Community Block Development Grant funds for clients. Following Bonacci’s presentation, the commissioners voted to adopt a resolution to designate County Judge Doug Page as the authorized representative to act on behalf of the Hazard Mitigation Project and to commit Trinity County to a 25% match and approval for the county’s participation into interlocal agreements with the cities of Groveton and Trinity. 

The commissioners also approved the execution of an application packet for the Hazard Mitigation Planning Grant to submit to the Texas Division of Emergency Management’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

One item that was passed upon, pending legal research, was the rescinding of a prohibition of through traffic to trucks exceeding the county-designated weight limits on Jack Shaeffer and Trinlady Park roads. Commissioner Smith stressed that if any rules on through traffic were changed on the roads for trucks that it should be by state-issued permit only. 

In other business, the commissioners voted to renew Trinity County’s insurance coverage through the Texas Association of Counties for the 2016-17 year.

•Adopt a resolution that advocates the use of hyperbaric oxygen therapy, as well as other medical treatments and therapies, for the treatment of traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. Precinct 2 Commissioner Rich Chamberlin, a military veteran, spoke favorably about the effects that such treatments could hold for soldiers returning from war. “It is a very positive thing…effective in dealing with those conditions.”

Without any other items for discussion on the agenda, the court adjourned its Monday morning meeting until its next regularly scheduled session at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 25, in the Commissioners’ Courtroom of the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton.


Commissioners hear leasing proposal from Co. Treasurer

By Chris Edwards

After a presentation by County Treasurer Bob Dockens, Trinity County Commissioners decided to table a proposal that would lease a four-acre part of the property of the Trinity County Park to the Trinity County Area Go Texan Committee.
Dockens, who is a member of the committee, spoke of a need for a new covered arena that could be utilized in many ways, and not solely limited to county fairs and rodeo events. Dockens said that the committee wishes to bring in some people who have experience constructing rodeo arenas as to whether or not they want to pursue the option of taking the existing arena down to build a new one.The construction of a covered arena, which would include a concession stand and storage facilities and measure at 200x300 feet, would cost an estimated $500,000 to build, according to Dockens. 
Dockens, who said the idea for using the land to build a new arena had been in the loose planning stages for a couple of years, and that the Go Texan Committee, along with the Trinity County Fair Association, could obtain the funds needed to build the structure through grants and donations.
The property, which is owned by the county, is commonly known as the park at the “Y”. It sits west of Groveton at the merger of highways 94 and 287. In a lease agreement drawn up by the Go Texan Committee to present to the county, the Go Texan Committee (the “tenant”) would pay a dollar each year for “annual rent” to use and occupy the premises.
In the ensuing discussion about the leasing proposal, the absence of existing paperwork pertaining to the land was addressed with concern. Mention of a 99-year lease of land, including the plot proposed to lease, made in 1996, was brought up by Precinct 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham. There was some recollection about the land being granted for use as a parking lot, which was donated by Champion International (now Georgia-Pacific). According to County Attorney Joe Bell, there is no formal agreement pertaining to the land or a leasing agreement that can be found.  
Precinct 3 Commissioner Neal Smith expressed support for the proposal, and stated that such a venue was greatly needed for events. Commissioner Smith said one of his goals was for Trinity County to have an events center large enough to accommodate people from throughout the county, however, he said he wanted to be sure there were no conflicts between the county and any organizations that might have an interest on the property before going further.
In an addendum item to Monday’s agenda, the commissioners voted to approve a proposal from Phoenix Fabricators and Erectors, Inc., to raise the existing 150,000-gallon elevated water storage tank in Trinity. According to the proposal, the tank will need to be raised 56 feet to make it even with the other water storage tank in Trinity, an imbalance that has proven problematic.
The repair to the tank would come at no cost to the county, however Precinct 2 Commissioner Rich Chamberlin expressed some concerns about an exclusion made in the proposal. Chamberlin said he’d spoken with Trinity Mayor Billy Slaughter about the issue, and the exclusion came up, which would release Phoenix Fabricators of any responsibility for any damages made to the land during the project.
The Commissioners approved a resolution to designate Grant Works as the planning service provider for the hazard mitigation fund project for the county. Andrea Wilson, a hazard mitigation grant specialist with Grant Works, spoke before the officials. Her firm was the only one to turn in a proposal to Trinity County, and the designation was awarded after a motion from Commissioner Smith and seconded by Commissioner Chamberlin.
Commissioners also approved during Monday’s meeting:
• A pauper funeral payment was approved for Rodney Heath.
• A bond in the amount of $5,000 was approved for Tammy Stone-Pursley, an employee in the County Judge’s office.
• The monthly report for the county’s income. According to assistant auditor Dan Fuller, tax collections are at 93% for the month of April, while overall collections are at 96%.
• The transfer of $700 from an inactive DPS fund to the Parks and Wildlife account was approved as a budget amendment. The funds will be used for camera equipment. Other budget amendments, which went approved, were for the purchase of a 2008 ¾-ton Chevy work truck for Precinct 1, at a cost of $7,500. The amount of $3,600 for road maintenance was transferred from Precinct 2 to 3.
• The renewal of Affordable Care Act Reporting and Tracking Service (ARTS) agreement with the Texas Association of Counties, in compliance with the annual information returns, was approved. This renewal of service is provided at no cost to the county.

T.I.S.D. Board of Trustees holds regular meeting, names finalist for superintendent, recognize students, staff, and more

At the last Trinity I.S.D. regular school board meeting, the Trinity ISD Board of Trustees named John Kaufman, as finalist for superintendent.  By law, the Board must now wait 21 days before voting to hire Kaufman.  Kaufman is slated to replace resigning Superintendent Plymale. The board also recognized students, staff, discussed district needs, and more.

Crystal English, who has been the sponsor for Jr. Beta Club for three years, recognized several of her high-achieving student members.

“I want to commend our students for their services to the community. They painted the school this year, they power washed the middle school this year, and this is our first time actually being on the platform to be invited to the national convention,” English said.

English recognized Vice President Chadrick English; Baylor Greer, who will represent Trinity Middle School as the State Chaplain for Texas and will compete at nationals; Katy Wells, who won first place poetry, and first place in the sketching and art competition; and Kelsey Huffman and Haden Coleman, who advanced to semi-finals at competition. Last, English recognized eighth graders Trenton Meredith, Alison Cox and Kamryn Lane for placing second the visual design competition. The group will compete collectively at nationals. 

“They spent countless hours trying to prepare to get to that level and to be successful, and this year we were successful,” English said.

Baylor Greer then presented his speech to the Board. He opened with prayer and a Bible verse -- John 3:16. Greer discussed his success through God in the speech.

Next, Coach Kevin Ward recognized his 2016 District Basketball Champions.

“. . . This is my first year in Trinity -- and it’s a big adjustment from where I was before -- but it was very enjoyable. We have a great variety of personalities on this team that all came together when it counted . . . It was an honor to coach these kids and I’m gonna miss quite a few of them very dearly.”

Ward recognized Karsten Mack, Nolan Hodge, Keaston Foley, Javante Oliphant, Jonathan Hester, Christopher Vick, Emmanuel Lopez, Demetric Mills, and Devondrae Ware. 

Interim Superintendent John Reynolds gave credit to Coach Ward for his team’s success, noting that the students were well-disciplined.

“I got to see this guys in action, and every game I saw them in . . . they kept their composure and made me proud to tell everyone they were from Trinity... they represented Trinity well, and I was glad to see them wearing the orange and white,” Reynolds said.

Athletic Director Eric Droddy said this is the third time for Trinity to win a district championship in basketball since 1985. 

Misty Coleman then gave her report regarding the step challenge.

Trinity High School came in fourth place with a daily average of about 3,000 steps per person, per day; Trinity Middle School came in third place with approximately 3,200 steps per person, per day; the Central Office came in second place with about 4,700 steps per person, per day; and first place went to Lansberry Elementary with about 6,900 steps per person, per day. Coach Murphy was Lansberry’s strongest “stepper” with over 19,000 steps per day.

Employees of the month were Shambrail Woods, Kelsey Huffman, and James Pruitt. Other staff sang their praises -- Principal Brittany Cassidy said Woods is one of the best first year teachers Trinity Middle School has ever had; Dr. Brownlee said Huffman does whatever it takes to bring happiness to her special education students; and Gill Campbell described Pruitt as a top-notch employee. They each received a certificate and $25 reward.

The Board voted to accept the resignation of Coach Edgar Vander Stucken, which will be effective at the end of the school year. 

Action agenda: 

The Board voted to approve agreement with the City of Trinity concerning old baseball filed property. on Maple Street.

The Board voted to approve Interquest Detection Canines of Southeast Texas service agreement for the 2016-2017 school year.

The Board voted to approve Southwest Food service Excellence agreement for the 2016-2017 school year, which had to do with changes in USDA guidelines.

Board Member Maggie Trevino voiced concerns over the blandness of the cafeteria food, saying that the food served to staff was good, but the students’ food had less seasoning and flavor. Reynolds commented that this is because student food is subject to USDA guidelines, whereas the staff’s food is not.

For the Superintendent report, Reynolds said Trinity desperately needs more maintenance people, and that T.I.S.D. has a smaller maintenance crew than other districts he’s worked in. On a more positive note, he told the Board that they’ve done a good job managing money and grew their fund balance to roughly 20 percent of the operating balance. The district has plenty of needs, he said, where that money can be spent.

Trinity I.S.D. holds school board meetings the fourth Monday of every month in the Administration Building.

Commissioners receive several updates

By Chris Edwards

Trinity County Commissioners received updates on several items of county business at its regularly scheduled meeting on the Monday morning of March 28 at the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton.

After County Judge Doug Page called the meeting to order, the commissioners approved three pauper funeral payment applications for Jimmy Groze, Carroll Mallony, and Jimmy File. There have been some issues with applications made to the county for pauper burials insofar as whether or not some of the deceased persons either lived within the county and/or meet the criteria for the county to cover burial expenses. Judge Page said he’d spoken with funeral home directors and applications now must go through his office for verification.

In other items on the Commissioners’ agenda, the county accepted a donation of sod from Gary Worsham for the courthouse lawn. Precinct 1 Commissioner Grover “Tiger” Worsham spoke on behalf of Gary Worsham, his brother, who he said had been in the grass business for many years, and wished to give back to the community, as he’d grown up in Groveton and graduated Groveton High School.

The Commissioners approved a county sponsorship of the upcoming Davy Crockett Bear Chase Marathon. The marathon, which will take place on Saturday, April 23, is in its ninth year and has a following with running enthusiasts all over the world. Judge Page made a request to TxDOT for a partial closure of FM 3154 during the marathon’s duration. Commissioner Worsham motioned to approve this measure, and Precinct 4 Commissioner Jimmy Brown seconded. 

The Commissioners approved the waiving of plat requirements for dividing lot 34, located off of Camp Branch Road. The matter dealt with the sale of part of the lot to an adjoining lot owner. Commissioner Worsham motioned to approve this item and Precinct 3 Commissioner Neal Smith seconded.

Also approved by the Trinity County Commissioners Court:

•The Commissioners recognized County Veterans’ Services Officer Eugene Prater for completing a course of specialized training last year.

•The approval of the official reports was made for the month of February. The reports submitted and reviewed by the court represented the Justices of the Peace, Constables, County Clerk, District Clerk, County Attorney, Sheriff, Community Center, and Tax Assessor.

•Judge Page presented a proclamation to declare the month of April as National County Government Month in Trinity County. 

Commissioners made the acceptance of a donation of $50 from the Trinity County Republican Party.

•The approval of bids on 15 different tax resale properties from Trinity County Appraisal District was made.

Without any business left for discussion, the Commissioners Court adjourned until its next scheduled meeting, which is set for 9 a.m. on Monday, April 11 in the Commssioners’ Courtroom of the Trinity County Courthouse in Groveton.